Hunting for a Great Read?
Co-owner Hunter Gillum has a loyal following of folks who stop in to see what he is reading, so we thought we would share Hunter’s Picks for 2022. Whether you are looking for a meaningful gift or just need a great read of your own, stop in soon and ask any of our friendly staff to recommend the perfect book for you or someone you love! Learn even more about Hunter’s favorite reads HERE and be sure to check out all our recent Staff Picks, then clicking on the staff member’s name.
Lark Ascending, Silas House
“With fires devastating much of America, Lark and his family first leave their home in Maryland for Maine. But as the country increasingly falls under the grip of religious nationalism, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe, not just from physical disasters but also persecution. The family secures a place on a crowded boat headed to Ireland, the last place on earth rumored to be accepting American refugees. Upon arrival, it turns out that the safe harbor of Ireland no longer exists either and Lark, the sole survivor of the trans-Atlantic voyage, must disappear into the countryside. As he runs for his life, Lark finds two equally lost and desperate souls: one of the last remaining dogs, who becomes his closest companion, and a fierce, mysterious woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection n any community provide the safety that they seek?”
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs, Sidik Fofana
Like Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place and Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, Sidik Fofana’s electrifying collection of eight interconnected stories showcases the strengths, struggles, and hopes of one residential community in a powerful storytelling experience.
Each short story follows a tenant in the Banneker Homes, a low-income high rise in Harlem where gentrification weighs on everyone’s mind. There is Swan in apartment 6B, whose excitement about his friend’s release from prison jeopardizes the life he’s been trying to lead. Mimi, in apartment 14D, who hustles to raise the child she had with Swan, waitressing at Roscoe’s and doing hair on the side. And Quanneisha B. Miles, a former gymnast with a good education who wishes she could leave Banneker for good, but can’t seem to escape the building’s gravitational pull. We root for these characters and more as they weave in and out of each other’s lives, endeavoring to escape from their pasts and blaze new paths forward for themselves and the people they love.
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs brilliantly captures the joy and pain of the human experience and heralds the arrival of a uniquely talented writer.
Dr. No, Percival Everett
“The protagonist of Percival Everett’s puckish new novel is a brilliant professor of mathematics who goes by Wala Kitu. (Wala, he explains, means “nothing” in Tagalog, and Kitu is Swahili for “nothing.”) He is an expert on nothing. That is to say, he is an expert, and his area of study is nothing, and he does nothing about it. This makes him the perfect partner for the aspiring villain John Sill, who wants to break into Fort Knox to steal, well, not gold bars but a shoebox containing nothing. Once he controls nothing he’ll proceed with a dastardly plan to turn a Massachusetts town into nothing. Or so he thinks.
With the help of the brainy and brainwashed astrophysicist-turned-henchwoman Eigen Vector, our professor tries to foil the villain while remaining in his employ. In the process, Wala Kitu learns that Sill’s desire to become a literal Bond villain originated in some real all-American villainy related to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. As Sill says, “Professor, think of it this way. This country has never given anything to us and it never will. We have given everything to it. I think it’s time we gave nothing back.” Dr. No is a caper with teeth, a wildly mischievous novel from one of our most inventive, provocative, and productive writers. That it is about nothing isn’t to say that it’s not about anything. In fact, it’s about villains. Bond villains. And that’s not nothing.”
The Sleeping Car Porter, Suzette Mayr
“The Sleeping Car Porter brings to life an important part of Black history in North America, from the perspective of a gay man living in a culture that renders him invisible in two ways. Affecting, imaginative, and visceral enough that you’ll feel the rocking of the train, The Sleeping Car Porter is a stunning accomplishment. Baxter’s name isn’t George. But it’s 1929, and Baxter is lucky enough, as a Black man, to have a job as a sleeping car porter on a train that crisscrosses the country. So, when the passengers call him George, he has to just smile and nod and act invisible. What he really wants is to go to dentistry school, but he’ll have to save up a lot of nickel and dime tips to get there, so he puts up with “George.” On this particular trip out west, the passengers are more unruly than usual, especially when the train is stalled for two extra days; their secrets start to leak out and blur with the sleep-deprivation hallucinations Baxter is having. When he finds a naughty postcard of two gay men, Baxter’s memories and longings are reawakened; keeping it puts his job in peril, but he can’t part with the postcard or his thoughts of Edwin Drew, Porter Instructor.”–
Properties of Thirst, Marianne Wiggins
Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes has spent years fiercely protecting his California ranch from the LA Water Corporation. It is here where he and his beloved wife Lou raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, and it is here where Rocky has mourned Lou in the years since her death.
As Sunny and Stryker reach the cusp of adulthood, the country teeters on the brink of war. Stryker decides to join the fight, deploying to Pearl Harbor not long before the bombs strike. Soon, Rocky and his family find themselves facing yet another incomprehensible tragedy.
Rocky is determined to protect his remaining family and the land where they’ve loved and lost so much. But when the government decides to build a Japanese-American internment camp next to the ranch, Rocky realizes that the land faces even bigger threats than the LA watermen he’s battled for years. Complicating matters is the fact that the idealistic Department of the Interior man assigned to build the camp, who only begins to understand the horror of his task after it may be too late, becomes infatuated with Sunny and entangled with the Rhodes family.
Properties of Thirst is a novel that is both universal and intimate. It is the story of a changing American landscape and an examination of one of the darkest periods in this country’s past, told through the stories of the individual loves and losses that weave together to form the fabric of our shared history. Ultimately, it is an unflinching distillation of our nation’s essence—and a celebration of the bonds of love and family that persist against all odds.
Our Wives Under the Sea, Julia Armfield
“Leah is changed. Months earlier, she left for a routine expedition, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. As Miri searches for answers, desperate to understand what happened below the water, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp. By turns elegiac and furious, wry and heartbreaking, Our Wives Under the Sea is a genre-bending exploration of the depths of love and grief at the heart of a marriage”–
Fire Season, Leyna Krow
“The propulsive story of three scheming opportunists-a banker, a conman, and a woman with an extraordinary gift-whose lives collide in the wake of a devastating fire in the American West. For the citizens of Spokane Falls, the fire of 1889 that destroyed their frontier boomtown was no disaster; it was an opportunity. Barton Heydale, manager of the only bank in Spokane Falls, is on the verge of ending his short, unpopular life. But when his city goes up in flames, he sees an ember of hope shimmering on the horizon, headed right for him. As citizens flock to the bank to cash out insurance policies and take out loans, he realizes he can command the power he craves-and it’s not by following the rules. Here is his reason to live. When Quake Auchenbaucher, a career con man hired to investigate the cause of the fire, arrives in Spokane Falls, he employs his usual shady tactics. But this time, with Washington Territory vying for statehood, the sudden attention to due process jeopardizes Quake’s methods of manipulation. And then there’s Roslyn Beck, whose uncanny ability to see the future has long driven her to drink, and with whom both Barton and Quake have fallen madly and dangerously in love. She is known as a “certain kind of woman,” in possession of unique talents and influence, if only she can find the right ways to wield them. As their paths collide, diverge, and collide again, Barton, Quake, and Roslyn come to terms with their own needs for power, greed, and control, leading one to total ruin, one to heartbreak, and one, ultimately, to redemption. With masterful precision, devious originality, and dark whimsy, Fire Season freshly imagines the greed and misogyny of the American West to tell a rollicking, bewitching story about finding purpose in the face of injustice”–
Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty
“Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy. In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty-with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight-breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs. A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction”–
Till the Wheels Fall Off, Brad Zellar
“It’s the late 1980s, and Matthew Carnap is awake most nights, afflicted by a potent combination of insomnia and undiagnosed ADHD. Sometimes he gazes out his bedroom window into the dark; sometimes he wanders the streets of his small southern Minnesota town. But more often than not, he crosses the hall into his stepfather Russ’s roller rink to spend the sleepless hours lost in music. Russ’s record collection is as eclectic as it is extensive, and he and Matthew bond over discovering new tunes and spinning perfect skate mixes. Then Matthew’s mother divorces Russ; they move; the roller rink closes; the twenty-first century arrives. Years later, an isolated, restless Matthew moves back to his hometown. From an unusual apartment in the pressbox of the high school football stadium, he searches his memories, looking for something that might reconnect him with Russ. With humor and empathy, Brad Zellar (House of Coates) returns with a discursive, lo-fi novel about rural Midwestern life, nostalgia, neurodiversity, masculinity, and family-with a built-in soundtrack”–
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English, Noor Naga
“In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, an Egyptian American woman and a man from the village of Shobrakheit meet at a cafâe in Cairo. He was a photographer of the revolution, but now finds himself unemployed and addicted to cocaine, living in a rooftop shack. She is a nostalgic daughter of immigrants ‘returning’ to a country she’s never been to before, teaching English and living in a light-filled flat with balconies on all sides. They fall in love and he moves in. But soon their desire–for one another, for the selves they want to become through the other–takes a violent turn that neither of them expected.”–
Family Chao, Lan Samantha Chang
“An acclaimed storyteller returns with “a gorgeous and gripping literary mystery” that explores “family, betrayal, passion, race, culture and the American Dream” (Jean Kwok). The residents of Haven, Wisconsin have dined on the Fine Chao restaurant’s delicious Americanized Chinese food for thirty-five years, happy to ignore any unsavory whispers about the family owners. But when brash, charismatic, and tyrannical patriarch Leo Chao is found dead-presumed murdered-his sons find they’ve drawn the exacting gaze of the entire town. The ensuing trial brings to light potential motives for all three brothers: Dagou, the restaurant’s reckless head chef; Ming, financially successful but personally tortured; and the youngest, gentle but lost college student James. Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town. “At once a brilliant reimagining of Dostoevsky and a wholly original and gripping story about the passions, rivalries, and searing pressures that roil a singular immigrant family.”-Jess Walter, author of The Cold Millions“–
Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Isaac Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald “recounts his ongoing search for forgiveness, a more far-reaching vision of masculinity, and a more expansive definition of family and self. [His] memoir-in-essays begins with a childhood that moves at breakneck speed from safety to violence, recounting an extraordinary pilgrimage through trauma to self-understanding and, ultimately, acceptance. From growing up in a Boston homeless shelter to bartending in San Francisco, from smuggling medical supplies into Burma to his lifelong struggle to make peace with his body, Fitzgerald strives to take control of his own story: one that aims to put aside anger, isolation, and entitlement to embrace the idea that one can be generous to oneself by being generous to others”–Book jacket.
Unwritten Book, Samantha Hunt
I carry each book I’ve ever read with me, just as I carry my dead–those things that aren’t really there, those things that shape everything I am.
A genre-bending work of nonfiction, Samantha Hunt’s The Unwritten Book explores ghosts, ghost stories, and haunting, in the broadest sense of each. What is it to be haunted, to be a ghost, to die, to live, to read? Books are ghosts; reading is communion with the dead. Alcohol is a way of communing, too, as well as a way of dying.
Each chapter gathers subjects that haunt: dead people, the forest, the towering library of all those books we’ll never have time to read or write. Hunt, like a mad crossword puzzler, looks for patterns and clues. Through literary criticism, history, family history, and memoir, inspired by W. G. Sebald, James Joyce, Ali Smith, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and many others, Hunt explores motherhood, hoarding, legacies of addiction, grief, how we insulate ourselves from the past, how we misinterpret the world. Nestled within her inquiry is a very special ghost book, an incomplete manuscript about people who can fly without wings, written by her father and found in his desk just days after he died. What secret messages might his work reveal? What wisdom might she distill from its unfinished pages?
Hunt conveys a vivid and grateful life, one that comes from living closer to the dead and shedding fear for wonder. The Unwritten Book revels in the randomness, connectivity, and magic of everyday existence. And at its heart is the immense weight of love.
Voice of the Fish, Lars Horn
“Lars Horn’s Voice of the Fish, the latest Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize winner, is an interwoven essay collection that explores the trans experience through themes of water, fish, and mythology, set against the backdrop of travels in Russia and a debilitating back injury that left Horn temporarily unable to speak. In Horn’s adept hands, the collection takes shape as a unified book: short vignettes about fish, reliquaries, and antiquities serve as interludes between longer essays, knitting together a sinuous, wave-like form that flows across the book.”-Provided by publisher.
Lost & Found, Kathryn Schulz
A Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker writer tells the story of losing her father and finding the love of her life in this profound meditation on grief and joy.
Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the story of those relationships into a brilliant exploration of the role that loss and discovery play in all of our lives. The resulting book is part memoir, part guidebook to living in a world that is simultaneously full of wonder and joy and wretchedness and suffering–a world that always demands both our gratitude and our grief. A staff writer at The New Yorker and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Schulz writes with curiosity, tenderness, erudition and wit about our finite yet infinitely complicated lives. Lost & Found is an enduring account of love in all its many forms from one of the great writers of our time.
Turn Up the Ocean, Tony Hoagland
“Over the course of his celebrated career, Tony Hoagland ventured fearlessly into the unlit alleys of emotion and experience. The poems in Turn Up the Ocean examine with an unflinching eye and mordant humor the reality of living and dying in a time and culture that conspire to erase our inner lives. Hoagland’ signature wit and unparalleled observations take in long-standing injustices, the atrocities of American empire and consumerism, and our ongoing habit of looking away. In these poems, perseverance depends on a gymnastics of skepticism and comedy, a dogged quest for authentic connection, and the consolations of the natural world. Turn Up the Ocean is a remarkable and moving collection, a fitting testament to Hoagland’ devotion to the capaciousness and art of poetry.”–
Alive at the End of the World, Saeed Jones
“Like his mentors, Patricia Smith and Rigoberto Gonzalez, Saeed writes poems that are lyrical, playful, musical, and political. It troubles expectations and asks the reader to challenge their assumptions about Blackness, sexuality, and socioeconomics. Saeed is responding here to white supremacy, heteronormativity, respectability politics, and the murders of Black people. In the service of equity and peace, Saeed elevates the matters that keep him up at night. If Prelude was a jettisoning of the oppressive structures Saeed experienced during his upbringing, ALIVE is a reminder that the work goes on, that freedom and equity are inextricably linked. In fact, a character from Prelude, known as Boy, carries through into ALIVE, which continues his work in Prelude with a maturity of perspective and more weariness. This is a work that examines the nuances of grief–the grief over lost family members and lost loves; the grief of white supremacy and the myth of safety from homophobia, anti-blackness, gun violence; the grief of covid”–
Time is A Mother, Ocean Vuong
“Ocean Vuong’s second collection of poetry looks inward, on the aftershocks of his mother’s death, and the struggle–and rewards–of staying present in the world. [The volume] moves outward and onward, in concert with the themes of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, as Vuong continues, through his work, his … exploration of personal trauma, of what it means to be the product of an American war in America, and how to circle these fragmented tragedies to find not a restoration, but the epicenter of the break.”–